EATING SUGAR? NO, PAPA! at L21 Gallery

Artists: Olivia Bax, Mona Broschár, Jordi Ribes, Gao Hang, Jan Hakon, Pixy Liao, Mira Makai, CB Hoyo, Bianca Fields, Rachel Hobkirk, Alex Chien, Spencer Harris, Jon Burgerman, Fátima de Juan

Exhibition title: EATING SUGAR? NO, PAPA!

Venue: L21 Gallery, Mallorca, Spain

Date: October 1 – December 3, 2021

Photography: Lúa Oliver / all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and L21 Gallery, Mallorca


From slapstick to sarcasm, parody to redefining reality, “EATING SUGAR? NO, PAPA!” is a group show which showcases contemporary artist’s diverse manipulation of humour as a compelling facet of human connection. As it happens with the best jokes, the affect of the artworks come to the viewer sideways – the element of surprise being the surest way to trigger the laugh reflex or tickle the collective funny bone. Featuring the work from 14 artists, the exhibition sprawls throughout the whole space of L21 LAB, through every corner and every pillar. This display delivers the right kind of intimacy and pacing for such a diverse array of works, following one of the curatorial precepts of L21 LAB in relating different artworks that at first sight would appear oppositional. As it happens with the sugar grains that compose a chewing gum, the artworks are stretched across the tongue of the exhibition space.

Sigmund Freud defined the uncanny sensations as resulting from “a hidden, familiar thing that has undergone repression and then emerged from”. The works of artists such as Mona Broschár, Jordi Ribes, Jan Hakon – recently in residency at L21 LAB – and Rachel Hobkirk distill in their own different ways an eerie feeling of recognition, yet there is a threshold that they are constantly stepping over and pulling back from. Like in stand-up comedy, an easily digestible joke might immediately precede one that challengues what the audience will accept. In this way, by including the works of Pixy Liao, Fátima de Juan, CB Hoyo and Spencer Harris, the exhibition also considers the construction of what is acceptable, challenging notions of gender representation, the status of the work of art or re-formulating violent imagery such as knifes and fights.

Humour can also come into play in those pieces that deal with our experience of the past in relation to digital technologies. Whether it’s the flat lines of Microsoft Paint or the clay-like forms made in 3D rendering software programs, the digital age has produced a number of fascinating textures, and styles for artists to play with. Alex Chien and Gao Hang play around with the aesthetics of computer games either in dealing with their obsolescense or playing on narratives where the human become animal.

Moreover, either playing with the titles of the works such as in Jon Burgerman’s “Blue Frog” or displaying the playful process involved in the making, like in the sculptures of Olivia Bax, the exhibition employs cheekiness to flip stories, present uncomfortable truths and challenge significant issues and methods of making in art to ultimately share a laugh.

1. Sigmund Freud, “The Unncany” (1919) in Sigmund Freud: Collected Papers, ed. Joan Riviére (New York: Basic Books, 1959).